Together Retro Game Club: Contra

Together Retro Contra

Presented by Fastbilly & Racketboy
New To Together Retro? Check out the introduction to the club

When Paul Kersey goes to visit his buddy Charlie in Brooklyn, he arrives moments after a gang kills his friend. Paul is mistaken by the police as the murderer and eventually goes after the gang to get revenge for his friend and save the neighborhood. Ok so thats the plot of Death Wish 3 and not Contra. But if you are a fan of the classic Charles Bronson film you know exactly why that is pertinent. Death Wish 3 and Contra have several key things in common. The most important things for you to know are hails of bullets, explosions, and carnage.

1987 put us in the shoes of two Military Commandos, Bill and Lance, for the first time. Locked in combat against the terrorist group the Red Falcon and their ties with an alien race, these two travel through ten intense stages of nonstop 80s action. Join us this month as we take down this alien menace.

Contra Screenshots


Despite popular belief, Contra is not named after the Iran-Contra Affair.  Rumor has it that the title is a portmanteau of the three words Battle Spirit Cloth, which in Kanji spell Kontora and is pronounced Contra.  Created in 86 and released in the Japanese arcades in 87, Contra took off and for good reason.  Within months of its release it had redefined what an arcade game should be.  Gone were the days of eating pellets and chasing ghosts, the 90s were on the horizon and we had to blow stuff up.  The arcade version defined what a Run and Gun title should be and is still considered one of the best of its kind.  However in 1988 Konami released the title in a somewhat truncated form for the NES in both Japan and the USA (Europe’s release was the following year) and it became an icon instead of just an arcade phenomenon.

There are many changes between the versions: the location was changed from the fictional islands of Galuga to an unnamed South American island, difficulty was slightly reduced to do hardware bottlenecks, the screen rotation was changed from vertical to horizontal, and the “if you have more than x lives the game becomes harder” mechanic was removed.  However, many consider these changes, and the others mentioned later, to be a boon instead of a determent.

Contra has been released in over twenty five formats including, most recently, cellphones.  It has been the inspiration for countless of songs, dozens of bands, and even a few films.  It is never far from the top of a hardest game lists even now, 23 years after its release, and will continue to infuriated the lot of us for years to come.  It is one of the first coop NES games and its opening notes are forever etched in most of our minds.

Recommended Ports

The NES port is considered by many to be better than the arcade original. It has several changes: condenses the 10 stages to 8, looks worse graphically, added in a the super bomb (the falcon powerup), made the base stages linear, etc. But Contra was one of the most popular coop games on the NES and of all time. It may not be the best version of the game (many say the MSX2 and Famicom version are superior), but you know what, its the one that carries the most nostalgia for us, and that means a lot more than a few frames of animation. I plan on running through it with my older brother just like we did back in the 80s.


Contra spawned a whole host of sequels on many platforms (vote for your favorite Contra game) :

  • Super Contra – Arcade, NES, PC
  • Operation C – Gameboy
  • Contra III: Alien Wars – SNES, Gameboy, GBA
  • Contra Force – NES
  • Contra: Hard Corps – Genesis/Mega Drive
  • Contra: Legacy of War – PSX, Saturn
  • C: The Contra Adventure – PSX
  • Contra: Shattered Soldier – PS2
  • Neo Contra – PS2
  • Contra 4 – DS
  • Contra Rebirth – Wiiware

Several of which have been released on the Wii Virtual Console or Xbox Live Arcade.

How to Play/Controls

  • Joystick – Move
  • Button 1 – Jump
  • Button 2 – Shoot

NES version – The most important thing that I am sure most of you reading this were waiting for us to put in is this:
Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, B, A, Start (or select start if you have a friend).
The Konami code was made famous by Contra since it gives you 30 lives over the 3 you get by default, but was first used in Gradius. If you dont know the code, you input the button commands before the title screen scrolls in and the intro notes and when you start the game you should have 30 lives. If it didnt work, and typically it doesnt the first time around, hit reset and try again.

Emulation Help

Racketboy Emulation Forum

Together Retro Discussion

Instead of posting in the comments section of the blog, we will be using the forum for all of our discussion in order to keep things more organized. So play Contra and talk to us about your thoughts and
play experiences in the forums. We want to know your tactics, your strategies, your successes and your failures.

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Alienjesus says:

Contra is also a word meaning ‘against’ in Spanish. I dunno if that has any significance, but if not, its a wierd coincidence.

garsh says:

It sure seems like everyone has a terribly hard time reciting that code properly. You’d think as famous as it is, it would be recalled more accurately.

That last B and A are unnecessary. Further, START and SELECT aren’t actually part of the code (which I’m willing to overlook where accuracy is concerned). The point is, after that first B and A, the code is done. Anything you do after that is nonsense, or the required button presses to actually begin the game.

Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A.

That’s it.

deathclaw says:

Alienjesus – it means “against” in many languages, even in mine (Slovak). It means against in English as well 🙂

nick says:

Hey Racketboy, at the end of the article at the end where it talks about posting on the forum…it says “So play Battletoads and talk to us about your thoughts and
play experiences in the forums” sorry to be anal but i thought id point this out

racketboy says:

Thanks — fixed now 🙂
(copy and paste strikes again!)

rsn12324567 says:

IMO the best version of Contra is “Gryzor” on the CPC. .
The gfx are much more appealing than on the arcade version, and the whole game is more tactical and interesting due to the screen-flipping.

Animaitor says:

“Contras” (with an “s” at the end) is also the group that was paid by the US government to get Nicaragua back from the “Sandinistas” a revolutionary group that fought to free their country form the US occupation. Since this was happening during the 80’s I wonder if has something to do with the name…

Hatta says:

I always thought it had to do with Contra dancing.

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